As we approach Earth Day 2016, it seems appropriate to spend time discussing strategies that not only benefit corporate bottom lines but also the environment. Regardless of your industry, reducing the amount of paper used to drive activities in the organization will generate positive outcomes, some obvious and some not so obvious. Either way, under most circumstances, less paper will create simpler processes and less waste which clearly benefits the organization and the environment.
In this article, we’ll focus on manufacturing, discussing some of the important reasons to
go paperless. Although our focus will be on manufacturing, many of the concepts are easily transferable to other industries
Waste in manufacturing is often referred to as Muda, which is a Japanese term defined as
‘futility, uselessness and wastefulness’ . This is important because when discussing the impact of paper on manufacturers, we must think in terms
of this basic application of lean to frame the discussion. As waste (Muda) relates to lean, there are 8 main categories, all of which can be exacerbated
by paper driven processes. Below we briefly touch on each Muda, and how going paperless can benefit the organization:
Data and information collection & sharing happens real time allowing for predictability and quick response to quality issues
Production and capacity planning are based on true demand (JIT) via virtual connections with ERP or direct to customer
Live production progress monitoring provides line visibility to managers allowing them to adjust resources for line balancing
4. Not Utilizing Talent
Real-time training provides the right work instructions to the right people, at the right location at the right time improving labor flexibility and utilization
Visibility and accessibility of work instructions create the baseline from which transportation waste can be removed - can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken
6. Inventory Excess
Real-time awareness of what is needed, when it’s needed and where it’s needed will reduce non-value added inventory expenses
7. Motion Waste
Well designed work instructions will quickly highlight and isolate wasted motion by providing better visibility to product flow
8. Excess Processing
Well documented processes using electronic applications can guide workers through the process in the most efficient way, removing unneeded processing
Paper is also detrimental to the environment. In the United States alone, paper waste accounts for up to 40% of total waste, totaling 71.6 million tons.
In terms of the environment, the production and use of paper has numerous detrimental effects.
- Paper demand worldwide has grown 400% in the last 40 years, demanding 35% of all harvested trees be used for paper production
- Globally, nearly 4 billion trees are harvested annually for use in paper manufacturing
2. Water Pollution
- Dissolved organic and inorganic material in paper production wastewater contaminate lakes and rivers with chlorates, and metals including Lead.
- 17,000 gallons of fresh water are required to manufacture 1 ton of paper, more than is required by any other industry to produce 1 ton of finished product
3. Air Pollution
- Paper manufacturing facilities emit nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide, all contributors to acid rain and climate change
- The worldwide paper industry consumes huge amount of energy, accounting for 4% of the world’s energy use, alone
Given these facts, going paperless can have far reaching positive impacts on all aspects of the environment, and with the powerful purpose built software applications available in the marketplace today, industry has an enormous opportunity to finally rid itself of the liability, cost, and inefficiencies associated with paper driven processes.
The challenge is not in finding the right application for a specific use, but in the change management associated with the transition itself. Investments in the retraining of existing employees, hardware infrastructure, software and converting existing paper data to digital formats may appear to be a barrier, but innovative, lean oriented leaders will understand the clear ROI for the organization as well as the environment.
Happy Earth Day From Visual Knowledge Share.
Written by Shannon Bennett
1 Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, 5th edition, 2003, Tokyo: Kenkyusha, p. 2530.